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Commissioner candidates and the law: criminal, civil court records reveal past infractions, cases

State court records don’t contain a whole lot to write home about for the six candidates who are competing for Alamance County’s board of commissioners in this fall’s general election.

A search of North Carolina’s new eCourts system shows a conspicuous absence of serious criminal charges for any of the six would-be commissioners. The eCourts system is also bereft of traffic violations for the three Republican contenders, although it does credit the three Democrats with several traffic offenses like speeding or running a stop sign.

The arena of civil litigation is a bit more plentiful for this year’s contenders – with a few tax-related actions against one Republican incumbent, a couple of collection actions against a Democratic challenger, and a smattering of lawsuits in which various candidates pop up as plaintiffs.

These court records were ultimately gleaned from a fairly new, web-based repository of cases that North Carolina’s court system formally introduced to the public in April. At the moment, the eCourts system contains files from just 27 of the state’s 100 counties – among which are Alamance, Guilford, Orange, Durham, and Wake.  The following information may therefore be incomplete, if the candidates were residents in one of the 73 other counties at the time of any criminal or civil actions, or if the litigation or charges were initiated there.

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Since the debut of this system, the state has struggled to work the bugs out of this service, and its efforts have resulted in some marked improvements. The eCourts system is nevertheless hampered by its partial coverage of the state’s counties as well as a search function that can return misleading results when an entry is too broad or overly narrow.

In order to cast as wide a net as possible, The Alamance News used various search options to scour the eCourts system for each of this year’s six candidates for the board of commissioners. In some cases, the newspaper has used variations of a candidate’s name when the appellation which appears on the ballot didn’t produce any results. The newspaper has also been careful to exclude data for people with similar names – which can be a particular hazard for civil court records, which tend to skimp on identifying information. Out of an abundance of caution, the newspaper has disregarded civil cases that lacked corroborating details like addresses and birth dates to confirm that a litigant was, indeed, a match for one of the six candidates.

In the end, the newspapers couldn’t find any entries in the eCourts system for Republican Edward James Priola.

Meanwhile, the two incumbent commissioners appear as defendants in a civil lawsuit that the North Carolina NAACP filed on March 30, 2021 in order to force the county to remove a century-old Confederate monument from the grounds of Alamance County’s Court House. A superior court judge ultimately adjudicated this case in the county’s favor in 2022.

 

John Paisley, Jr.

Republican John Porter Paisley, Jr., a local attorney who currently serves as the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, crops up in quite a few civil cases – although he almost always appears in his capacity as an attorney and not as a litigant. Even so, Paisley emerges as a plaintiff in a couple of civil actions.

On November 14, 2008, Paisley lodged a motor vehicle negligence suit in Alamance County against Louis Overton Dean, Jr.; Joseph Thomas Smith; and Dalene Gates Smith.  Paisley voluntarily dropped the action on December 1, 2008.

On January 16, 2015, Paisley filed a lawsuit against Sean P. McGayhey of Elon in order to collect on an outstanding bill. Court records indicate that he obtained a judgment for $8,201.17 on August 12 of the same year.

 

Pamela Tyler Thompson

Commissioner Pamela Tyler Thompson appears in three tax-related actions in which she’s named as a co-defendant alongside her husband – retired attorney Craig Thompson.

According to court records, the IRS filed two tax liens against the couple on September 22, 2000 and December 5, 2007. While no mention is made of the amount that the federal agency had sought in the first case, the second reportedly concerned a sum of $35,359.89. This lien has since been canceled, and the overdue balance was “paid and satisfied in full” by September 30, 2013.

In the meantime, the N.C. Department of Revenue filed its own action against the Thompsons on May 16, 2005 over a tax liability of $6,696.66. Court records indicate that the state canceled this action on June 28, 2006 because the balance had been “paid and satisfied in full.”

 

Carissa Graves

The court record is a bit more substantial for the three Democratic contenders – particularly when it comes to their adherence to the rules of the road in North Carolina.

According to the eCourts system, Carissa Ann Graves received a speeding ticket from a state trooper on April 9, 2015 for going 57 in a 37 mile an hour zone within Alamance County. The ticket was reduced to a charge of improper equipment on May 20, 2015.

Graves also appears in the state’s civil database as the plaintiff in several eviction cases. The would-be county commissioner lodged the first of these actions in tandem with Willie Graves on December, 29, 2003 against Jennie Bigelow and Douglass Corbett. The two landlords obtained a favorable ruling in this case on January 28, 2004.

Graves went on to file other successful eviction actions for unpaid rent against Rhonda Davis on March 9, 2010; Lisa Michelle Johnson on November 26, 2013; Joi Walker on February 27, 2017; and Harvey Tedrick on October 3, 2017.

On March 10, 2023, she and John Henry, Jr. jointly sought a successful summary ejection against Tashannon Jackson that apparently didn’t concern money owed. Civil court records also indicate that Graves sued Shannon A. King on March 25, 2009 for money owed that didn’t involve an accompanying eviction action. Graves ultimately discontinued the suit on June 24, 2009.

 

Anthony Pierce

Anthony Ramon Pierce, a second-time candidate for board of commissioners, received three speeding tickets prior to his residency in Alamance County.

As a resident of Durham, the future commissioner candidate was pulled over within Alamance County on January 1, 1999 for going 80 in a 65 mile an hour zone and driving without auto insurance. Pierce ultimately received deferred judgment after he pleaded “responsible” to the speeding infraction on February 22. At the same time, the court dropped the accompanying insurance charge.

Pierce was again cited for speeding on April 17, 2000 after he was caught doing 50 in a 45 mile an hour zone within Wake County.  Pierce, who was still living in Durham at the time, pleaded “responsible” to a lesser offense on August 2, while the court went on to dismiss an accompanying charge for failing to notify the DMV of a change in his address.

Pierce incurred his final speeding infraction on June 4, 2012 when the then-Creedmoor resident was allegedly clocked at 63 in a 45 mile an hour zone within Alamance County. Court records indicate that the charge was dismissed on July 13, 2012.

Pierce also appears in the state’s civil court database as a defendant in two collection actions. Palisades Collection lodged the first of these claims on behalf of AT&T on November 1, 2006. The collection agency ultimately received a judgment for $1,913.15, which was “paid and satisfied in full” by November 25, 2008. More recently, Wells Fargo took Pierce to court on November 14, 2018 over an outstanding balance of $8,054.41, which was “paid and satisfied in full” by April 10, 2023.

Two other entries for Pierce concern his divorce from Dromecia Aunmdrea Pierce, which the future candidate initiated on November 12, 2004 and completed on June 27 of the following year.

 

Chris Smith

The eCourts system also contains multiple motor vehicle infractions for Democrat Christopher Cameron Smith.

On August 15, 2003, a Greensboro police officer stopped the then-Greensboro resident for driving sans registration. Court records indicate that the case was dismissed on September 15, 2003.

On February 4, 2016, Smith allegedly ran a stop sign or a flashing red light in Orange County and received a deferred judgment on April 6 after he pleaded “responsible” to the offense.

In August 25, 2017, he was cited for going 44 in a 35 mile an hour zone within Orange County. Smith pleaded “responsible” to a lesser offense on January 3, 2018.

Smith’s most recent infraction stems from September 28, 2023 when a Mebane police officer allegedly caught him speeding inside of a school zone. The charge was reduced to improper equipment when it went to court on October 27.

A final entry for Smith concerns a divorce action that he filed against Jennifer Marie Smith on May 4, 2017. This case, which included the future candidate’s accompanying claims for custody and child support, was initially settled on June 29, 2017 – with subsequent rulings on January 21 and August 23 of 2021.

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